Blended Action Learning: Supporting Leadership Learning in the New Zealand ECE Sector
The purpose of this research study was to explore the use of information communication technology (ICT) to support leadership development in the New Zealand early childhood education (ECE) sector. There is currently a lack of policy and provision supporting leadership development in this sector. Previous research has identified the value of leadership development programmes that encourage reflective practice, peer collaboration, and a focus on problemsolving in reallife situations. ICT has the potential to support leadership learning using action learning, a process that involves groups of learners working on issues or problems that they face in their professional contexts with the support of a facilitator. Although action learning groups most often meet facetoface, ICT is increasingly being used to support or in some cases replace traditional meetings. This research study, which took the form of interpretive case research, involved the establishment of two blended action learning groups facilitated by the researcher. The participants in this study both met facetoface in facilitated workshops and interacted online while back at their respective workplaces for ongoing reflection, discussion and the sharing of knowledge and resources. The open source software Moodle was the enabling technology used in this study and the ICTs employed included email, online reflective journals, forum discussions and chat sessions. A model of leadership learning using ICT was developed through the analysis of data from this study. This model illustrates the leadership journeys taken by participants who increased their awareness of leadership through a process of recognising, reflecting, realising and responding. This led to increased confidence in their leadership practice and in some cases resulted in a greater distribution of leadership. Four key factors contributing to the leadership learning process were identified to be the blended action learning process, the blended action learning groups, the ICT tools used and the role of the blended action learning facilitator who acted as both an enabler of learning and a trusted inquisitor. This study contributes to our understanding of the process of leadership development using ICT, in particular the role of the blended action learning facilitator and the process of leadership learning.